Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Zahnd, Brown and Bernoulli

Sunday night (on to Labour Day Monday, you'll understand) I stayed up rather late (2:00 AM: yes, it was that good) to watch this. It was most instructive. On one side you have Brian Zahnd, proposing a view of the atonement that is either novel or a return to earlier ideas, depending on your perspective, and on the other side you have Michael Brown rebutting that with a view that is either traditional or a Calvinist innovation, again depending on your perspective.

Really, I found myself in sympathy with both views, which supports my idea that all such debates are rooted in different sets of cultural values that the Christ event can legitimately be viewed through and, if it results in the viewer following Jesus, be equally valid. (And yes, I admit there is a bit of hubris involved in watching a debate and declaring myself the winner.)

Monday morning found me running as usual. On one of the legs of my journey, there was before me an upside down styrofoam plate with rounded sections for different parts of the meal. And I imagined a wind blowing over it and sucking it up into the air in the manner of an airplane's wing. And suddenly it came to me what a parable it was for the debate I had just watched.

It's like this. Every child (in my country) with some science training is aware of the operation of Bernoulli's principle upon the shape of an airplane's wing. The classic diagram is a cross section of the wing showing the air above being forced to travel faster than the air below, and based on that differential and the resulting differential in air pressure, lift occurs. The plane is literally sucked into the air. But is it? Actually Bernoulli's principle accounts for only a percentage of the lift. Most of the lift comes from the air deflecting off the bottom of the wing as it tilts slightly upward against the air rushing past as the thrust from propeller pulls the plane forward. That's called "angle of attack."

So which is it? "Bernoulli's Principle" or "Angle of Attack?" Well the story is not complete without either. The plane doesn't generate enough lift without both. But the thing flies nonetheless. So with theories of the atonement. Somehow, no story is really complete. And from one side of the wing, so to speak, you feel that yours is the only story and every other story is an offence. But if you can manage to try the other side there's a whole new paradigm awaiting your arrival. But ultimately, no matter how it works, it really does work.